Putting things in order

British Museum pediement

British Museum pediment

© Jack Shoulder

    • Imagine for a moment that you are in charge of a museum or art gallery. You are the person responsible for organising all of the art work and the artefacts.

      How would you go about it?

      There are lots of different ways to arrange art. You could look at one artist at a time to explore their work in depth. Or you could arrange things by themes to show how artists tackle ideas like love, death, anything really.

      Some museums like to organise their artefacts by where things come from, to give a greater understanding of what was going on in that part of the world. The Ashmolean Museum is a great example of a place that does this.

      But what about putting things in chronological order, from the oldest to the earliest?

      Some places, like the Museum of London, do this in their galleries, and explore the history of London era by era from Romans, to Tudors, to the modern day and everything in between.

      Tate Britain has taken this approach a step further. Instead of hanging things according to loosely defined eras, the curators are telling the story of British art using a very strict timeline.

      Tate’s approach risks showing a dull or predictable journey through the history of British art, but it's not. In fact it shows just how unpredictable art can be and gets you thinking about the outside influences acting on artists.

      If we just look at one artist at a time, it is easy to think that the artist worked in a bubble. When we look things using Tate's very strict timeline, we can see fascinating connections between art created at the same time.

      Here is a film from Tate that goes into a bit more detail about this.

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